By Andrew Kahn
The Miami defense, which has played so well this season, needed just one more stop on Sunday to get the Dolphins a win over Detroit. Instead, the Lions scored a touchdown with 29 seconds left to win 20-16. Buffalo lost 17-13 to the Chiefs, surrendering a fourth-down score in the fourth quarter. These AFC East foes stand at 5-4, two games back of New England and looking up at a long list of teams in playoff contention. The Bills have won three straight in this series, including a 29-10 victory in Week 2. Given their remaining schedules, the Bills really can’t afford to drop this game.
When Buffalo has the ball:
We may not be able to take much from the first meeting earlier this year, as E.J. Manuel was still Buffalo’s quarterback at the time. Kyle Orton has taken over and performed better than expected; he’s eighth in the league in passer rating, ahead of stars like Drew Brees, and the Bills are 3-2 in his starts. Regardless of quarterback, there was no magic formula in the win: Buffalo rushed for a pedestrian 3.8 yards per carry but won the turnover battle 2-0, hit five field goal attempts, and prevented Miami from hitting on big plays.
Turnovers will again be key, for both teams. Miami and Buffalo are tied for second in the NFL with 19 takeaways. After turning it over five times in his first three starts, Orton hasn’t had any in his last two. He surely appreciates Sammy Watkins, who has shown why he was the No. 4 pick in the draft. Watkins leads the team with 42 receptions, 617 yards, and five touchdowns. He compiled just four catches for 27 yards on Sunday and there was concern he may be injured. The good news for Buffalo is that he was a full participant in practice this week.
When Miami has the ball:
Miami entered Sunday’s game with a three-game winning streak, including a 37-0 shellacking of San Diego. The loss to the Chiefs was a major setback, though, especially with how flat the Dolphins looked offensively. It stands to reason that Miami will have to run the ball effectively to win. Buffalo leads the league in sacks and dropped Ryan Tannehill four times in the first matchup. To make matters worse, the Dolphins lost their left tackle for the season last week and their left guard may miss a third straight game. The injuries have forced Miami to reshuffle on the line, and that could mean another big day for Buffalo defensive ends Mario Williams and Jerry Hughes, who have combined for 14.5 sacks this season.
Buffalo’s run defense has been porous of late and Miami is tied for fifth in the league in yards per carry. Dolphins running back Lamar Miller has not looked very explosive the last few weeks, however. That may be partly due to a shoulder injury, though Miami expects him to be ready for Thursday night.
Prediction: Buffalo 23, Miami 20
Andrew Kahn is a regular contributor to CBS Local who also writes for Newsday and The Wall Street Journal. He writes about the NFL and other sports at http://andrewjkahn.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @AndrewKahn
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